Last weekend, tucked away in a girlfriends hidden beach house on Long Island, I met with fifteen unlikely friends and we had what turned out to be a women’s AA retreat. Like true New York women in recovery, half the group stripped off layers of black clothing, lay their white bodies out on the sand, doused their tattoos with sunscreen and sat up periodically to smoke cigarettes. The other half, with no tattoos or piercings, slipped out of Indian sarongs, sat in lawn chairs reading trash magazines, sipped lemonade through straws, and forwent the sunscreen. Subsequently, I’ve spent the past week rubbing layers of dead skin off my reddened chest. The two halves mixed evenly on the beach and later into the night when we stayed up counting stars and giving one another advice on boy troubles. That's when I got the idea for the social experiment.
It started when L called me out on my excessive dating.
“I’m really not looking for anything serious. I just enjoy dating,” I said.
“Do any of these men have potential?” she asked.
“No, but they're fun.”
“Do you think you might want something serious with someone in the future?” she probed.
“Sure, but I’m not ready," I said quietly.
L looked at me rather matter-of-factly, “I used to date a lot of men I new weren’t going anywhere. I also thought I really didn't want a relationship. But then truth is that I did want a relationship, just not with any of the men that I was dating. And dating those guys was keeping me from meeting someone I could really care about.”
She shrugged, rubbed her wedding ring on her sweats and resumed pointing out constellations with the rest of the ladies. I paused, sipped my lemonade, and started thinking.
I couldn't stop thinking about what she had said for the next 48 hours.
Do I really want a relationship? I guess I do someday, but I’m totally freaked out about the idea of one right now. I’m not good at them. I always fuck them up. Besides, relationship=boring in my mind. And I’m not ready to find a pint of Ben and Jerry's and netflixs a hot Sunday night date. Fear of relationships is such a cliche. Is it really possible I have fallen into the trap?
To combat fear, I normally exert a tremendous amount of control over my life. And when I try to control my life, I lose sight of what “the spiritual part of my being” has in store for me. Dating men that I don’t see a future with is my way of shielding me from the pain of being alone or being in a dysfunctional boring relationship. These "fun" men are my condoms against the penetration of something more serious and potentially more painful. But what if that is what I really need. If I let go of trying to control the situation will I open myself up to something great? I decided to give it a try.
I came back to New York convinced I need to let go of the men in my life that hold no future promise. So basically, I broke it off with the six or so guys I was dating. It was actually quite easy once I decided it was the right thing to do. The day after I spoke with the last broken fling, I felt a vacuum of loneliness and I compounded the feeling by isolating and turning inward. I began to feel like there was no one out there thinking of me. It made me really hungry. I craved carbs.
But it’s an experiment and I want to see what happens if I let go completely and have a little trust in the powers above. Can I let go completely and only date men that have potential of becoming something serious? Can I let go of a man once I begin to realize I wont ever be happy with the level of commitment or effort he is bringing to the relationship? Can I turn down really steamy kisses in unlit doorways with hot foreign men whose names I will likely forget in three to four weeks?
What will become of my social experiment?